Litty Talks to Chefs: Laurent Quenioux, Bistro LQ

by Litty Mathew

Confession: I’m a cooking school dropout.

Almost two decades ago, I attended cooking school in France. Sounds romantic? Well, I found out pretty quickly that I was better fit on the other side of the table. But my love of cooking and my curiosity for delicious and interesting ingredients influences what I do at Greenbar Distillery.  It’s why Greenbar Distillery spirits go so well with food.

Because of my experience, I’m drawn to chefs. (We love what we can’t be.) I adore asking them all sorts of things. Not just about vittles but how they see the world. Who their best friend is. What brand of dish soap they use…so I thought I’d share some of my conversations with food people.

Recently, I caught up with Laurent Quenioux, one of Los Angeles’ best French chefs. He’s had a long and varied career in the city. From opening the award-winning 7th Street Bistro (back in the day) to being executive chef at Dodger Stadium (yup, that’s a thing) to his current passion project, LQ “Foodings” (such a fun evening).  If you haven’t had Chef Laurent’s cassoulet, put it on your list. Toute suite.

Chef Laurent Quenioux chats with Greenbar Distillery Founder Litty Mathew

Chef Laurent Quenioux chats with Greenbar Distillery Co-founder, Litty Mathew

Here’s an edited excerpt from our casual chat:

Litty Mathew: Why do you want to feed people?

Laurent Quenioux: I think it’s to share my knowledge of beautiful ingredients with folks who might not have a daily exposure to the fun, fresh things I come across. I love coming across interesting ingredients and using them in my cooking.

LM: And why is that “sharing” important to you?

LQ: In this sense, we democratize the dining experience. To make it more available to people who are interested and not just the elite.

LM: How do you describe your style of cooking?

LQ: I’d say it’s very spontaneous. I cook what’s available at the market and at the local farms. If we can get our hands on it, I’ll try to use it in a dish. I pay attention to the seasons here but also in other parts of the world. I really like working with young producers. They provide such interesting ingredients. Argan oil from Morocco…

LM: (Interrupting). I thought that was just for the hair.

LQ: …Special peppers from Spain. I like the spirits you make…

LM: You don’t have to say that…but do go on…

LQ: You’re bringing life to something commercial. Alcohol used to be more about lifestyle and entertaining. You’re changing the boundaries of what is acceptable at the dining room. It’s exciting.

Chef Laurent Quenioux chats with Greenbar Distillery Founder Litty Mathew
LM: Who comes to one of your LQ “Fooding” dinners?

LQ: People who are adventurous and interested in challenging their palates. People are seeking something new but it still has to be healthy.

LM: Speaking of healthy, you have a pretty nice garden in the back. What are you growing?

LQ: Oh, we planted all kinds of chiles and peppers. So many tomatoes! You know, we’ll be serving six courses of tomatoes later in the year. Some eggplant. Lots of herbs.

Chef Laurent Quenioux chats with Greenbar Distillery Founder Litty Mathew
LM: If you could be an ingredient, what would it be?

LQ: A vinegar.

LM: Wow. You offered that answer pretty quickly!

LQ: A homemade vinegar. It’s one of my favorite secret ingredients. A few couple of drops of acidity make so many dishes shine. I like the shine.

Chef Laurent Quenioux chats with Greenbar Distillery Founder Litty Mathew

LM: You’re collaborating with Greenbar Distillery on a series of cocktail pairing dinners. How are these pairing different than a traditional wine pairing dinner?

LQ: It’s a bit more edgy to pair with cocktails. Wine pairings are easy for me. Spirits and cocktails are challenging, which make it fun.

LM: I know your cooking. I think your sense of adventure and sixth sense for ingredients will charm the crowd.